I go to exercise classes at the Lakeview Center. I hesitated at first to explore these classes because they were tailored to Senior Citizens, and I saw myself as not nearly senior enough for such malarky. After giving these sessions a try, though, I changed my attitude. While the predominate hair color is steamship gray, the members of the class kick my ass. After several rounds of quick feet, repeater knees, and mambo, I am panting and grabbing for my water bottle, while the other members of the class are barely breathing hard.
There is a range of abilities in the class, though. One day I was watching a new class member from behind and was planning on telling her that this class was reserved for seniors and that she should find a class more suited to teenagers. When she turned around, though, the lines on her face gave her away. Just because she was elderly didn’t mean she wasn’t svelte and graceful. There is another member of the class, however, who is truly old. I’ll call her Ruby.
We all baby Ruby because she is so feeble. She stands up front and does her own pitiful thing. We are on the floor doing something hideously painful, and she is swaying back and forth and idly waving her hands. She is cute as a button in her rolled up blue jeans and blue permed hair, and she does have a sweet sense of humor. “My mama used to tell me, Ruby, you are so precious.”
Nancy, our instructor, asked her, “Ruby, is that true?”
“No,” answered Ruby with a beatific smile on her face.
When we do our laps around the exercise room, Ruby shuffles back and forth down the middle leaning on the arm of a kind class member. One day a new class member, a Yankee with no manners (NO, not me) asked Ruby, “Honey, how old are you anyway?”
The answer blew me away. We are the same age.
Now I am not saying I am more fit or anything than Ruby, but I don’t see myself as an old lady. Now I realize that I am looking at myself without my glasses on and have an idealized view of myself. Age has played its cruel tricks on me and I’m not as cute as I think I am. Yesterday my friend Sydney glanced at my arthritic hands and gasped. “My God! Your hands look like claws.”
I guess they do. When I taught in the juvie prison I could get the boys to do their schoolwork by threatening to touch them with my gnarliest finger.
I took a hard look at myself this morning. Gravity is a hard master. What used to be my cheeks and chin are now hanging low and brushing my chest and shoulders. And speaking about my chest, my breasts now resemble a pair of sacks containing dead kittens.
In spite of a solid regimen of skin care, my skin is papery thin and wrinkled, and the flesh on my legs is so lined with veins that they look like a street map of Asheville. I look more like Granny Clampett than Kim Kardashian.
I do what I can, though. I color my mouse brown hair, go to exercise class, and wear clothes that are clownish to call attention away from my unshapely carcass. And when Ron and I take off our glasses and gaze at each other, we are both as young as we think we are. Thank God for poor eyesight.